Why It’s Time to Abolish Black History Month

February’s not the only time to learn American history and world history.

Black History Month (BHM) should be abolished and should never be officially honored or even informally acknowledged. It’s nothing more than some reverse racism entitlement nonsense that gives credit to a whiny race of shiftless people who have always received much more than they have ever given to America and the colonies. Moreover, BHM is unfair to white ethnics whose ancestors came here through Ellis Island and were subjected to harsh discrimination. But instead of complaining, they simply fought through it, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and in just a few generations became educated, successful, and even prosperous members of society, living the American Dream. They didn’t need no damn English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, or other history month. So let’s abolish BHM right here and right now.

But before doing that, let’s briefly discuss why those colored folks even got BHM in the first place. Much of it started when Carter G. Woodson—later recognized by many as the “Father of Black History”—was a student at Harvard University where, in 1912, he became the first person of enslaved parents to receive a PhD from that elite Ivy League school. While in class one day, one of his white professors, Edward Channing, lectured that, “The negro had no history.” And this contention was widespread at the time throughout this country’s educational system. But on that particular day, hearing it from the mouth of an instructor at America’s leading university, Woodson was propelled to do something about it. So after expanding and compiling his own extensive research, he connected with four men and on September 9, 1915 in Chicago, inspired by that city’s national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation, which highlighted the remarkably impressive progress of blacks since their enslavement, they founded what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Its mission, as “the premiere Black Heritage and learned society,” is to “promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history, and culture to the global community.”

To that end, among several other enlightening projects throughout the decade, Woodson and the association publicly announced Negro History Week in 1925 and first celebrated it in February 1926. Although many people believe that Woodson and the organization chose February because Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in that month, that’s only part of the reason. The complete reason is what he described as tradition. He recognized that ever since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and ever since Douglass’s death in 1895, black folks had begun commemorating the work, and as a result the birthday, of each of those two great men. Accordingly, in order to reap the benefits of pre-existing, Negro issue-related popularity, Woodson decided to merge into what was already a celebratory and prideful time for African Americans. It went from Negro History Week to Black History Week in 1972 and then Black History Month in 1976.

A little know fact about Negro History Week is that Woodson, according to the ASALH, “never viewed black history as a one-week affair. He pressed for schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what students learned all year. It was in this sense that blacks would learn of their past on a daily basis that he looked forward to the time when an annual celebration would no longer be necessary.” Also, he “believed that black history was too important to America and the world to be crammed into a limited time frame. He spoke of a shift from Negro History Week to Negro History Year.” This is the very same position taken by my mentor, the recently and dearly departed Shirley Turpin-Parham, immediate past president of the Philadelphia-Montgomery County branch of ASALH and professor of history at Cheyney University.

That’s precisely why I say abolish Black History Month. It’s much too important to be “crammed into a limited time frame.” It requires a year’s worth of official recognition every year. Why? Because it’s American history, and it’s world history. Unlike white ethnics who voluntarily came here with bootstraps to pull up, black folks were kidnapped, shackled, and dragged here bootless beginning in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia when they were enslaved and forced to toil endlessly to build the colonies and later this country. Despite that, more than 5,000 of them willingly served in the Revolutionary War to liberate this country; they also fought in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. That’s American history, not black history!

Twelve of this country’s presidents enslaved black men, women and children—eight of them while in office. That’s American history, not black history! Enslaved black human beings dug the foundation for the White House. They toiled as expert masons in the quarries for the stone used for the building’s walls, dug up clay for thousands of the bricks, chopped down trees to make space and use for paneling; this was backbreaking labor without any compensation whatsoever. And after they built it, they were constrained to work inside as domestic servants from at least 1800 through the Civil War. Furthermore, as documented in a congressional task force’s report entitled “History of Slave Laborers in the Construction of the United States Capitol,” they constructed the Capitol, too. It was none other than master craftsman and artisan Philip Reid, born into slavery in the early 1800s in South Carolina, who supervised the adroit assembling, the meticulous bronze casting, and the skillful placement of the five-ton Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol in 1863. That’s American history, not black history!

In addition to the history of the White House, there’s a history right here in Philly. And that history is the enslavement of black men, women and children by this country’s first president, George Washington, at America’s first “White House,” formally called the President’s House at Sixth and Market next to the new Liberty Bell Center. An organization by the name of Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, of which I am a proud co-founder, led the successful battle to commemorate that site. And our current battle, headed by the prominent historian and scholar Edward W. Robinson, Jr., is to convince the school district to finally infuse African and American-American history—i.e., world history—into the official curriculum, making it a required course for graduation.

Shouldn’t students and all Americans know, for example, that the first human being on the planet was an African from the Nile Valley region of East Africa 200,000 years ago, that Africans invented geometry, calculus and algebra, that “Amen” and “Christ” are Egyptian (meaning North African) words and concepts? And shouldn’t they know, for example, that the Internet is in large part the result of the genius of Philip Emeagwali, whom CNN describes as “a father of the Internet,” that the light bulb was primarily the work of an inventor hired as Thomas Edison’s expert witness in patent infringement suits, namely Lewis Latimer, that the new and improved home gas-based/central heating system was patented by Alice Parker, that the first home security alarm system, featuring both television and video surveillance, was by Marie Brown, and that the key forerunner to the modern-day elevator was a design by Alexander Miles? This African and African-American history information here is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg. There’s much more to learn and to share—and it’s American history and world history, not black history!

Therefore, Black History Month should be abolished and should never be recognized or even acknowledged. However, the great contributions of black men and black women in America and throughout the world must rightfully be infused as an essential part of American history and world history.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/vol4change Suzette

    Thanks again Michael ~Black History should be weaved into American History. It should not be a month dedicated to black accomplishments. Can we now take the blindfolds off.As author James Webb(The Common Foe and Racial Divide of America) puts in his book. Strong Black men and women made plantation owners some of the richest people in the U.S.with 250 years of free labor.The tea party or shall I say tea baggers want their country back. But wasn’t this Pandora’s box opened by forcing, kidnapping and bringing black people to these shores to work their rice paddies and pick their cotton,nurse their babies and cook their food in the big house. How bamboozled we all are when we celebrate the discovery of a land that was already inhabited.Yes do away with Black History Month and tell the truth about how we did it and they hid it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mona.washington Mona

    Another great article Mr. Coard. As much as I agree with you in theory, in fact, getting people to recognize the importance of challenging White Supremacy in every aspect of our lives is quite difficult. I say we need both the eventual abolition of Black History Month through a complete integration and realignment of our cultural norms and knowledge and Black History Month. Unfortunately we’re not where we should be…but thank God we’re not where we used to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PhilaGovClinton Clinton

    I will somehow manage to ignore the opening statements that referred to many of my friends and most of my family as shiftless and whiny…

    “Black History Month (BHM) should be abolished and should never be officially honored or even informally acknowledged. It’s nothing more than some reverse racism entitlement nonsense that gives credit to a whiny race of shiftless people who have always received much more than they have ever given to America and the colonies.”

    Having read more of the post it sounds to me like this is more about fulfilling the original goals set out by those who gave us Black History Month. I really don’t think that your first step in doing so is to abolish Black History Month. In fact, the first thing I think we need to do is rejuvenate it. Remind everyone why it is important. Highlight for a final time how in many ways “Black History” continues to stand out in stark contrast against the “American History” still being taught in schools. Then finally demand that these differences be appropriately reconciled in official school lesson plans, books, etc.

    If we do away with Black History Month first I sincerely doubt that “American History” will ever truly be corrected. We need to take a page out of the Miss Black America handbook. There had to actually be a few African American Miss America’s before the Miss Black America contest truly became less relevant. So show me a few major metropolitan areas and some Jim Crow states really correct their history books before we get rid of Black History Month. When I go to suburban schools to visit Black History Month celebrations with family and friends I want to see more than just the same 2 to 3 paragraphs about Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Right now I’m afraid that our message to America is that “Black History”, however you view it, is not that important. That’s why there really aren’t as many informative shows and movies on during February as there were 20… even 10 years ago. That’s why we now celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday as “MLK day” or “A Day of Service”. If we remain along this path, I predict that no child born in 2020 will know that America once despised, persecuted, enslaved (physically and mentally), and denigrated the people who helped build this country on principles like “…all men are created equal…”.

    So I agree that there should be an agenda that includes the abolishing Black History Month. However, that should be one of the last action items on the list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nanabaakan Nana

    When I was home schooling my children, I found an invaluable book, it was a full rendering of American history that included all or let me be more exact, a number of contributors from across nations. The trouble with History is that it is just that, a story, his story, as the saying goes, the conqueror always wins when the story is told through his eyes. I think it’s important to have a month of dedication for African/American History because it does bring the artists out in full force, right? But we also must teach our children to be critical thinkers, researchers and writers themselves. If we do that, they will be able to explore beyond the boundaries that are taught in school and particularly in one month. Too often the xpectation for teachers to provide something in the school setting that they themselves never learned or care to learn is a bit disingenuous. Since this country is a white supremacist base country with a constitution developed that did not include anyone else but the white male elite at the time, the historic contributions of many people across a wide spectrum has been ignored, left out or deleted from the story of this country. In fact, folks are just now speaking about who the first Pilgrims were, why they came here, and what they did after they got here. The story of the indigenous folks was so skewed in my childhood educational process, that I did not learn the truth till I was an adult. The books need to be written as well as giving credit to all the people who contributed to the development of this country and our world.

  • roylee58

    Anyone who would not recognize that a profit is reaped by foregoing one month to gain a whole year probably won’t recognize that they are still enslaved mentally.
    Maybe, they should be reminded of Georg(P-Funk) Clinton’s remark which breaks it down to it’s lowest common denominator, and it also comes with a universal translation:
    “free your mind, and your ass will follow”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jan.Dalina Jan Dalina

    The 4th of July should also be removed as a national holiday. Every day should be Independence Day.

  • Bucks

    http://www.amazon.com/White-Cargo-Forgotten-History-Britains/dp/0814742963/ref=pd_ybh_2

    Mr Coard, it’s time to broaden your horizons. While (based on your writing) I’m sure you would be vehemently against stereotyping black people, I’m amazed that you’re so willing to do so to white people.

    “Unlike white ethnics who voluntarily came here with bootstraps to pull up” is offensive. You’re grouping millions of people that escaped genocide, or worse, were transported to America against their will to serve as slaves, and ignoring the fact that it happened. That’s American history too pal. You can’t have it both ways.

  • mike s

    Simply stated; equality will never be achieved if such acts of individualism are so publicised. We are all equal. Why is one month more significant to one race or ethnicity than the next? It shouldnt be if we are equal. You dont see White entertainment television or white history month or asian history month. So why continue honoring something imdividually insted of honoring those remarkable people as part of americas integrated history?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Earthbeauty-Wanda-Farmer/100000362285485 Earthbeauty Wanda Farmer

    THIS IS A LOVELY READ, AND I SUGGEST RENAMING (BHM) TO AFRICAN AMERICAN WORLD HISTORY CONTINUUM. THANK MIKE

    • Christine Harrity

      then what about those Blacks from other places? France, Great Britain, etc

  • http://www.facebook.com/John327 John Harcrow JR

    Sorry pal, I was rooting for ya till I came across Amen and Christ. Amen is Hebrew meaning “so be it” and Christ is a derivative of the Greek word ‘Christos” which means “the annointed one”. Google it!

  • Christine Harrity

    Don’t know if I fully agree. Instead of American History, let’s say Human History whereas a little power is dangerous, and those with this little power advance their kind by strategically eliminating those with less power, except by some strange miracle those ppl under attack, survive. All strategies against them fail, and they are still here. Now that’s amazing. Instead of counting dollars and degrees, we may want to discover how the HELL did Black ppl (globally) survive against all odds.

    And it is unTrue that those coming thru Ellis Island did whine, complain, & protest particularly against Blk ppl attaining any kind of economic mobility, and esp.: in New York. New York seemed to be the place for immigrants to “knock down” those who were already at the bottom (Blk ppl). More importantly although those coming thru Ellis ran from and to discrimination this didn’t stop them from imposing “harsh conditions against Black ppl especially when it came to professions, jobs, education, housing, etc.:

    Maybe human beings need to look at the history of Blacks, and vow never, never again.

  • Sondra Lee

    I am impressed with your article…..I am a grandmother of 6 and everytime I get a chance whether talking on the phone/texting…. I remind mine of their history. I have long been an advocate of teaching our OWN history throughout all the schools but since the powers that be always drag their feet when it comes to anything of importance to US why not start a program after school (starting with elementary children) in our homes? After all we have a very beautiful HISTORY as evidenced in the bible and as stated in your article so many inventions. I sat my oldest grand down when he was 12 and made him read the REAL story of CRISTOBOL COLOMBO he was shocked due to the fact that the teachers didn’t present the same info the way that he interpreted it. He thought he was a good guy…..NOT NO MORE! This would be a great start for our youth in hopes that they will turn their lives around for the positive and a great chance to get to know themselves better. I’m with you on making black history a daily quest….. My grands absorb all this knowledge and I must say there are numerous blacks that I have never heard of myself….so its’s a great learning process for myself as well! So don’t wait for the school system to incorporate it into their cirriculum….. We have to start somewhere so lets start with ourselves….Maybe even start a book club.

  • GMAN

    Michael, you are so on point, our history should not be limited to one month. Our history goes far beyond what’s taught in our schools. There is no way that you can express our history in one month. Our history should be taught, learned and experienced every day. The fact that our history is not taught as a part of world history is insulting to our people. I understand why it’s not taught as a part of world history, our oppressors don’t want to deal with truth. That truth reveals how they oppressed and abused our people and once set free never given the resources to survive after we built this country. It’s important that we know our history and not HisStory, because HisStory is not our History.

  • the black moor

    Man these white people are crazy and evil. Black people been on this earth way before the white race. The white man hid sooooooo much of the black history its sad. Black history sould be horned everyday. All white history is evil and savage. No other race on this earth done the shit the white race have done. The white race will die of soon and the black race will come together and reclaim are history. karma is a b@#^h one day we’ll do the same savage shit you did to the black race mark my words.